Very often these days, books are over-hyped when it comes to promotion. We know this, and yet still, we fall into the lure of dust covers decorated with dazzling quotes from other writers and eye-catching designs. However, quite often, these books leave us feeling disappointed, as they fail to live up to the marketing campaign that’s gone before. It’s the same with films and other things of course, and perhaps nothing can ever really live up to the hype, but when publishers push titles onto us, it can be difficult to know whether to invest the time in the stories.
Which makes it all the more special when you happen across a book that isn’t being forced in your face, but which nevertheless, delivers great storytelling that you just can’t put down. I found such a book at the weekend – A Good Day for a Dog by Enniskillen-based author, Carlo Gébler. I’ve known of Gébler’s work for some years, but only recently started reading it (!), and it was for me, quite literally, a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down.
As a creative writing teacher in prisons in Northern Ireland, Gébler has first-hand knowledge of the prison system here, and this novel, published in 2008, makes good use of that knowledge, as it depicts the story of Stephen Melanophy, who spends his life in and out of prison. It’s a compelling story told deftly in punchy chapters which constantly move the story onwards – this is a book which prompts the reader to move swiftly from page to page and never really presents you with a moment when you wish to put it down for a break. It’s a style of writing which we all, I think, strive for – one which completely absorbs the reader in the tale being told.
I was at a literary festival on Friday where Gébler was speaking, which is where I picked up the book, and he said on the day that he writes with the reader in mind always. He went on to joke that that reader is a version of himself, but there’s something in the delivery of his writing that just works. I wouldn’t ordinarily say that my book of choice is a gritty tale about prisons and drugs and beatings and shootings and the like, as I have a tendency towards elaborate fantasy books, but when the story’s good, the story’s good. Along with my friend Kelly Creighton’s recently published novel, The Bones of It, it’s enough to get me back into reading the crime genre… 🙂